Jul 12th 2011, 16:41 by E O Hatterpol | 1228 AU FROM SUN
I WAS stunned, to be honest. Stunned and a little confused, too. I had just had a strange conversation with Heartbreak about a secret fight club on Starbase Octopus.
I needed some time to think about this. I thought my best bet for getting Nixie back would be to wow her with tons of salty space booty ($$B) won at the Calamari Casinos, but I had gambled it all away almost against my will, it seemed.
And now I'd have to face Ravi the Bookman and confess I'd lost his life savings on craps. If he wanted to go Stompyface on me, I'd understand. Being crushed under a giant hammer made entirely of books isn't a bad way to go, after all.
It's a bad-ass way to go, is what it is!
I wandered about the Starbase in a daze, barely conscious enough to keep an eye out for policemen. After all, I was wanted for the death of a poor zonbi girl who crashed my sweet date with Nixie and then died all over us.
I floated past the laser tag arena, with its dry ice smoke and pew!-pew! sounds. I went straight past the hookah bar without so much as a sniff of the apple tobacco. I could barely contain myself when I went past the Lovers' Tunnel. That's where I would've taken Nixie if I had had the chance.
I don't really know where I went after that. I was a storm cloud of regret, anxiety and deep thought. I ended up staring blankly at a pile of newly checked-out books at a dive bar with my third beer in hand. I didn't even know which books I had checked out, or how I had got through the first two beers without noticing.
But that's how I tended to end up: with books & beer for company.
The last time I fought, it wasn't for money in an underground fight club. It was for my life, aboard both the Starship Flybrary and on the plutoid Makemake. I wasn't trying to pile up $$B; I was trying to defeat Captain Makemake & his twisted board games.
Had I fully recovered from the trauma Makemake caused me? Had I fully recovered from seeing the BPOD covered in dead bodies? From watching my best friend explode into a cloud of paper right in front of me? From having to harpoon the Starship Flybrary just to stay alive?
Had I fully recovered from trying to kill another man?
Had Captain Makemake changed me? I thought about how angry I was at the slot machine for not explaining its rules clearly. Only Makemake would do something like that. Hadn't I taunted him just a few months earlier with Parcheesi blocks & money under free parking? Why did I care about board game rules, or any game rules, for that matter?
There was something else deep down inside that troubled me even more. It was excitement.
Excitement at the thought of fighting again, of putting my life on the line and maybe losing it. Had I become a thrill-seeker? Or had some of Makemake's violence just rubbed off on me? Had I turned into a monster worse than he to have the strength to defeat him?
My thoughts trailed off by beer five. I decided to thumb through the books I had checked out: Redwall, by Brian Jacques; How to Write A Sentence, by Stanley Fish; Antipericatamentanaparbeugedamphibricationes, author unknown.
I took a look at that last one. Sure, I could read middle French, but why would I ever check out a book that translated loosely into Discussions on All Manner of Subjects by Fartface Monks?
And then I realized.
"Look how big that book is!" I shouted out loud. (This was beer seven.) "Look how thick it is, how sturdy it is... shell, it's even got a fat leather strap for me to hold! Barnacles, man... I've checked out a shield!"
My mind was messed up. I mean, my mind was made up.
"Let's do this!!" I said, shooting up from my booth like the shuttle Atlantis. I drained the last of my eighth beer, grabbed it by the neck and smashed it on the corner of my table. The last few drops ran off its sharp edge, and for a split second I swore I saw the unmistakeable skull and eyepatch of Captain Makemake's Jolly Roger.
I hoisted my new shield Antipericatamentanaparbeugedamphibricationes onto my arm and tore out of that bar for Tentacle Six.